From a highly skilled statistician friend of mine:
"It is increasingly looking like of all people who catch this, around 0.8-1% die (the "IFR"). The 4% is only of hospitalized patients, but we are pretty sure way more people catch it than need a hospital. But we are also pretty sure that excess deaths have mysteriously jumped to a total that is almost double what the attributed Covid deaths are, presumably from lots of Covid deaths that aren't correctly attributed to it.
0.8% of the country is around 2.6 million people."
Herd immunity WILL lessen the number, but it is still too early to predict immunity numbers with a high degree of certainty.
In the meantime, no one wants to be part of the 2.6 million, nor have their parents, grandparents or friends succumb. Life is already short enough, and putting people at risk is something we are learning to avoid.
I grew up in an age when seatbelts were never used, everyone smoked everywhere and even drunk driving was considered pretty normal. Our society is evolving to protect our lives, for the better.
You may be right, but In order for me to be persuaded by your argument, you'll first have to provide satisfactory answers to a few questions.
1. How is the government going to pay to have us stay at home for a minimum of a year and a half? Are our mortgages going to be paid? Bills and living expenses? A quick jog with my calculator shows $1200 per month for 328 million Americans is 7 trillion dollars over 18 months. And $1200 a month isn't enough to cover most people's living expenses and debts. Essentially, most Americans will go bankrupt and most companies that rely on income (and last time I checked, I think that's just about all of them). How would a company that was shuttered for 18 months start up again? Where will the capital come from?
What about people who have a mortgage on a five million dollar house? Does the government pay for their debt while someone with a $75,000 house get a fraction of that? Is that fair?
And the cost that will eventually have to be paid. Currently the US government shells out about half a trillion dollars a year on servicing our national debt, the total of which is currently around 80% of the budget. If we continue as we're going now, 18 months from now we'll easily double that debt load. That means that for every $18 you make, $1 will be going to pay for the national debt. What if a more grave emergency comes along? Do we double or triple that again?
2. When will it ever be feasible to end the lockdown prior to the time a vaccine is discovered? This contagion started presumable with a handful of people exposed in this country and within two months we were racking up 30,000 cases per day. We will never be below a tiny handful of contagious people again. The genie is out of the bottle. So when would you consider it safe, wise or prudent to open up the country?
3. Why is it that you consider our only options being lockdown or full-on open with no safeguards? An obvious alternative exists that no one seems to even be talking about: protect that small percentage of the population that is vulnerable to hospitalization or death and let the younger, healthier get on with their lives while maintaining an economy. A small fraction of what we would pay with 18 months of lockdown could be far better spent on protecting the most endangered people who would be the ones stretching our medical capabilities. And who, thankfully, because of retirement mostly just happen to not be working contributors to the economy. Are you certain that this alternative that would maintain the economy would create a significantly higher death toll than we have today? Are you willing to stake the country's economy on your perception?
In answer to your statement on 2.6 million deaths, I think your statistician friend is a little high (I calculated a .6% mortality rate), but either way, it's guesswork. If you don't have the data you need to provide an answer, being the best statistician in the world isn't going to help you. I know I'll get blowback for this but, it is true, these most vulnerable are vulnerable mostly because they are reaching the ends of their lives. And while if they knew for sure they would die if we opened up the economy, they would probably scream bloody murder. But right now, nobody knows for sure. it's a gamble. I'm 56 years old and think I can safely say that the country I grew up in would never have considered closing up shop under these conditions. And I think the older generation would be even more surprised by it. I wouldn't expect the country to close down for the chance to lower my risk of death, especially nearing the end of my life. And I don't see that the generation that came before me would feel anything other than the same.
When you ask the question, how would you feel if you or a loved one dies from the disease, that really isn't a fair question. It's like asking someone if they would drive their car today if they knew they would die in an accident. We take a calculated risk every day to whatever degree in order to have a normal life and are willing to throw the dice. I mean, if I knew I would die by a car hitting me when I crossed the street in the coming year, I might just think long and hard about lobbying to outlaw all cars. In other words, you can't remove the potential for "reward" in a hypothetical involving a risk and expect an answer that means anything.
About four years ago a study was done that showed that men's testosterone has dropped a jaw-dropping 30% in the past 20 years. What if our species has evolved to have two different types of brains--a masculine and feminine--for the purpose of determining what to do and how to deal with, well, everything. That as a species these two brain types have in a way developed in order to perceive reality more accurately, together working as a more balanced, finely tuned preceptor than either of the two separately. When you mention in your reply above that our society has evolved, has it? Or are we perceiving things differently now because chemically we have changed. I personally fall firmly on the masculine side of thinking, and when reality seems to become increasingly skewed away from the way you think, believe me you notice. If it moves toward you it's just people being reasonable and you never notice. This question has come to the fore right now with the virus and how we're dealing with it. To me our current thinking just makes no logical sense whatsoever. But I know for those whose mind is dominated by the "yin," somehow the exact same situation perceives the current response as appropriate.
But, really, is it such a reach with the extraordinary occurrence that male testosterone has dropped to a level never before seen that our species is chemically out of balance? And if that's so, it might just be my responsibility right now as a "yang" to speak up when I see my society on the verge of what I think is self-destruction from the increasing dominance of one side that has so rarely come to be cross examined.